British theatre on “brink of total collapse” without government support

The stark warning came from top producer Sonia Friedman

British theatre is on the “brink of total collapse”, one of the industry’s leading producers has warned.

Sonia Friedman, who has produced hit shows such as Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, has called for a government rescue package to prevent more than 1,000 theatres from permanently closing following the coronavirus outbreak.

Writing in The Telegraph, Friedman warned that the UK stage faces “the real possibility of complete obliteration” if substantial government support is not provided.

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“Without an urgent government rescue package, 70% of our performing arts companies will be out of business before the end of this year,” she wrote. “More than 1,000 theatres around the country will be insolvent and might shut down for good.”

Friedman went on to describe the loss as “irrecoverable” and said “our arts and cultural organisations will have to spend their reserves until there is nothing left” if proper support is not provided.

It follows similarly stark warnings from British theatre impresario Sir Cameron Macintosh, who said that theatres won’t be able to reopen until 2021 as a result of social distancing measures.

Mackintosh, who has produced shows such as Les Miserables and Hamilton, said that actors will struggle to immediately reconvene when social distancing measures are eventually relaxed.

With the majority of this summer’s music shows and festivals having been cancelled or postponed, it was also warned recently that social restrictions could be kept in place in the UK for the rest of the year.

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Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Adviser to the UK Government, told the public it was “wholly unrealistic” to expect life to return to normal soon.

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